Friday, August 31, 2012

How God Orchestrated Our Ellerslie Semester

The Summer 2012 Basic Semester at Ellerslie was full of what God did. It went far beyond what any of the staff could have done to intentionally orchestrate the circumstances. It is such a privilege to see God at work, and I want to remember the story.

Dates of the semester: June 16 - August 20, 2012

I'm counting June 16 as day 1 for purposes of seeing significant numbered days. Numbers were rather significant to us during the semester. For instance, we felt very special to be the 7th Basic semester that Ellerslie had conducted since its inception in 2010.

Week 1
I arrived late (due to missing my flight), so my first experience at Ellerslie was walking into the church at Ellerslie in the middle of Eric's sermon, A Distracted Devotion. It was all about Jacob and Esau and the way they illustrate the difference between the flesh and the spirit, and how Jacob's moment of wrestling with the angel of God, saying "I will not let you go unless you bless me," illustrates the way we ought to find our success in Christianity. Rather than being the "heel-grabber," we ought to grab hold of God.

I remember a sense of anticipation building within me from the moment I walked in the door. "Oh my goodness! He's talking about the difference between walking in the flesh and walking in the spirit. Maybe finally someone can explain it to me! Maybe I'll finally learn how to walk in the spirit and not experience the constant defeat of the flesh," I thought.

That night, Eric heightened the sense of anticipation when he gave his message Majesty Lost. I remember sitting there, listening to him speak, and experiencing him raise our expectations to a whole new level of what God was going to do with the semester. "Whoa..." I thought. "He's setting the bar pretty high. In fact, he's setting the bar extremely high. Is this semester going to be able to live up to this promise?"

Little did I know that God would far exceed my expectations, and far exceed even the "raised expectations" that Sunday's messages created. Little did I know how profoundly my life was about to change.

Our sessions that week were basic, foundational messages that established the basis on which all of our future training was to stand. Particularly significant for me were the messages The Anatomy of Faith, The Body, and In Christ. These messages were so simple, yet so profound, and they further stimulated my appetite for what was to come.

However, I remember that whole week having a sinking feeling of dread, wondering, "What if everyone else gets it, and I am the only one left out? I have been so close to these truths for so long--I have read about them, I have searched them out, I have studied them, but I haven't yet lived them. What if I just stay in that "stuck" place, while everyone around me moves on and enjoys the beautiful closeness with God that we're all hearing about?"

I was not alone. Many others that I talked to experienced a similar feeling, describing a vague hopelessness, a fear that everyone else would "get it" except for them. I think that was just the enemy's tactic to try to make us all feel alone. However, God had big things in store for us, and the enemy would have no place, no role in what was to happen in our lives.

At the end of that week, I wrote the following in my journal:

I am here at Ellerslie—this day marks one week since I’ve arrived. 
How rich has been the teaching and preaching! How stirred I have been to respond to God. How much truth we have received! 
Messages like “The Anatomy of Faith” and “In Christ” have been full of light and help. 
But I still felt like I was short of a breakthrough. I still felt walled in, stuck, unable to reach God with my own power, full of self, and needing the fulness of Christ to break me, change me, and bring me to life. 
Friday afternoon I wrote a blog post about the message “The Anatomy of Faith.” Friday night I had already gone to bed, and I was lying there thinking about the same topic when a thought came to me. “You know, think of all the people that Jesus healed by saying to them, “Arise, take up thy bed, and walk.” There were lame people, paralyzed people, DEAD people. Jesus just commanded them to get up.
“What if those people looked at Experience rather than Fact when Jesus told them to get up?” I thought. Experience says, “I’m stuck here on this bed. I can’t get up. Obviously, my track record is so bad, it’s hopeless.” Somehow, Jesus’s command came with the power to obey it. Jesus’s word has been given out. How absurd it would be to say, “Jesus, don’t you see that I’m here on the bed? Don’t you see that I can’t get up?” 
It would be like saying, “I remember that I was dead, so therefore, I must still be dead.” It would be looking back to past experience, rather than looking forward in faith to the unchangeable Word of God. 
I thought about the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus. Jesus says, “Damsel, I say to thee, arise,” and she gets up and eats some food. But what if she went back and lay on the bed and said to herself, “I know I was dead, so I’m going to act dead. I really can’t get up out of bed.” What if she lay there and closed her eyes and folded her hands peacefully on her breast? What if she took the opinion of all the mourners who laughed Jesus to scorn when he said that she was not dead, but merely sleeping? Jesus had raised her from the dead to be alive! Even if she acted dead, it would be an absurdity, because there would be a pulse. There would be breath. There would be activity of the mind that would chafe under lying completely still on a bed for hours on end. Pretty soon she would get hungry or bored or have to go to the bathroom, and she would inevitably get up. But what if she went back and lay down and never did anything except lie there as if she was dead? 
These thoughts all flashed through my mind in an instant. 
The next instant came His voice.
“Rise up.” 
“Me?” I thought. 
“YOU. Arise to life.” 
As a symbol of my response, I sat up in bed. I stretched out my arms to him. “Here I am Lord, alive.” Then I lay back down and slept sweetly and peacefully through the night.
Saturday morning I took a walk down a trail that comes right through here, and I was just thrilling with the dawn of a new day in my soul. I walked down and found a fallen tree to sit on, and I sat there and prayed. Somehow God sealed it all to my heart. I started quoting to myself Romans 6, 7, and 8, and it all just started clicking into place, like a row of dominoes cascading. Each idea fell onto the next idea, until I was just so excited, and so full of glory, and so ablaze with life, that I knew I would never again return to death. Jesus has called me forth into the dawn, and the darkness of doubt and confusion is never to return. 
May the name of the Lord be glorified. His I am for eternity. He can do whatever He wants. 
Here I come to Thee, O Lord. I will not pitch my tent. I come, pursuing You, trusting You, and delighting in You. Shine out of me and do the work You want to do. I’m yours.

Could it get any better than this? Could I ask for anything more than that? If I went home at the end of week one, even if that was all there was to the Ellerslie training, I could have been satisfied. I had already received such a major boost, such a thrust forward in my Christian life, that I could have gone on to press forward into the endless frontier from there.

But there was still more to come. We pressed on together into the endless frontier, being boosted further by the faith and knowledge of the staff at Ellerslie.

To Be Continued...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting! I love comments! You have just made my day! :-)